Generally speaking, as I move about in my every day regular life, I don't think or worry much about people who don't like me or don't wish me well. Generally, as I move about in my every day regular life, I don't consider that I might have haters. I've never subscribed to the "haters are my motivators" line of thinking; I've never, personally, seen the logic in it.
But over the last couple of months, I'm starting to feel... hated on.
It started back when I found out I'd be teaching another class at my alma mater. The first class I co-taught with 2 other professors in the fall and this class I'm teaching solo. It's a big deal, but then to me it's not. I appreciate the opportunity, it's certainly a resume builder and I'm always happy to mentor and provide support for folks looking to enter my field of work. But when all is said and done, I don't do this to look good to anybody. I do it because I'm genuinely interested in being a help to the students and the faculty who invested so much in me and the start of my career.
Last semester, one of my colleagues, and a person I consider a friend, who also teaches this same course, called me up and asked if I'd be willing to speak to his class on short notice about a certain topic. He pitched it as an opportunity for me to meet some of the students I'd have the following semester -- I didn't need the opportunity as I had all of them in the class I was teaching at the time -- but it did provide an opportunity for me to talk to them more about myself as a professional, since the class I had them in was a bit more about the theory.
He met me at the door to the building (I was running a bit late) and walked me back to the class. On the way he re-emphasized the opportunity to meet the students and he added a note - "some of them asked me how it is you're able to teach this class when you've only been out of school for a year."
He went on to discuss how he assured them that I had a lot to offer and they could learn from me, but none of that did much to assuage the feeling I had that everything wasn't on the up and up. It felt like maybe HE was the one who'd wondered how I got this opportunity when he'd been in the field for 7 years before he was approached. I was confused. Did he see me as competition? He wasn't going to teach any fewer classes or make any less money because I was helping out, so why the comment? And even if he didn't wonder that, why did he offer it up to me? How was it a helpful comment? I tried to shake the feeling that he was throwing shade, but I couldn't.
Earlier this month I was at a staff meeting, and sat next to a teacher I feel I have a pretty good working relationship with. We've hung out, in a group, outside of school and, generally, get along while at work. She and I are both native Tennesseans, but we hail from different cities. She asked me what high school I went to and when I told her the name of my private high school she replied, "oh! No wonder!" Intrigued, I asked her to explain what she meant. She said, "I mean, it explains a lot about you. You're not really black."
I'm not new to this whole line of thinking, so I knew exactly what she meant when she said it, but for some reason I was particularly offended. Maybe because she tries to present herself as someone with a background other than the one she has. Which is fine -- "started from the bottom" and all that. Maybe that made me think she wouldn't be the type to think of someone as "less black" because of (enter stupid stereotype here). When I told her "what do you mean, 'not really black.'?" she responded, "I mean of course you're black, but you're not ghetto, hood, from the projects black."
The more I thought about that exchange, the more I couldn't let it go. Aside from the stereotyping, which is par for the course, there was something about her "no wonder!" that didn't sit right with me. No wonder what? It was as if she'd always thought something was wrong with me and knowing I attended a private school explained it -- but what could "it" be? I think more than feeling stereotyped, I was wondering how long she'd been pondering how I got to be the way I am and further, for what reason?
And then last Saturday I had drinks with a couple of friends where it came up that I'll be going back to school this fall to get a degree with an emphasis in administration and instructional leadership so that I can be an administrator. One of my friends laughed at me and seemed shocked that I wanted to be an administrator. Last night, she, myself, and several different friends had dinner where she brought this tidbit up in conversation (though it wasn't relevant). She said it in a "wait till y'all hear this shit..." kind of way and it set me on edge immediately.
Everyone was very supportive of me, one of them even said she'd love to work for me. It seemed that their support wasn't what she was going for and so the friend who brought it up added, "well, you really should spend some time teaching. I mean, summer school or something. As a counselor, but even when I was a teacher, I listened to and respected admins more if they had a teaching background."
I'd been so caught off guard by the whole thing, I just said something about taking it all one thing at a time -- but I couldn't shake the feeling that she does not wish me well on this journey. And why not?
If we're honest, we've all been jealous of another person's accomplishments. Whatever they may be. Marriage, kids, family, jobs, cars, houses, degrees, acclaim -- somewhere in there falls something each of us want out of life and when someone else has it before we do, sometimes we feel jealous, EVEN when that person is a friend of ours or someone we care a lot about. Sometimes, those are the very people.
So I get how it can be hard to feel happy for someone and I don't judge anyone for feeling that way, but do you have to tear someone down? Do you have to be negative?
My mom always tells me to be careful who I let in my circle, and I feel I have been. It seems to always be the people I don't expect. The folks I find so far away from me in terms of what they have or what they want that I just can't fathom myself as any sort of competition for any of them. And if I'm not competition, then what is there to be jealous or petty over? Or so goes my line of thinking.
Turns out, I need a new line of thinking.